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Cafe Altro Paradiso

Italian Ignacio Mattos Thomas Carter Hudson Square

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#1 Sneakeater

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Posted 23 February 2016 - 07:25 PM

Cafe Altro Paradiso is Chef Ignacio Mattos and wine guy Thomas Carter's follow-up to their wildly successful Estela.  Before becoming a star at Estela, Chef Mattos cooked at the ill-fated New ______ restaurant Isa in Brooklyn.  He said that at this new place, he wanted to cook straight-out Italian.

 

The world missing from that last sentence is "again".  Because the place Chef Mattos first attracted attention in New York, before he opened at Isa, was Il Buco.  Quality went way up at Il Buco when he started there -- and dropped when he left.  So although Chef Mattos is South American by birth, he first made his mark as an Italian chef.

 

Estela being the huge hit it is, Cafe Altro Paradiso is getting a lot of attention from the local food media.  We went opening night.  Whatever slight service glitches there may have been by the very friendly and attentive staff (again, they recognized us from previous places of employment), the FOH and kitchen seem to have their act together.

 

The menu can use some expansion, though.  In the future, they will have nightly special segundi (a different set special for each night).  But as of now, they're limited to three, none of which is powerfully compelling.  The one I had -- swordfish -- was very good (although subject to one flaw I'll get to later).

 

The cooking here has integrity, and is accomplished.  The problem I have is that Chef Mattos has his likes:  similar flavor accents pop up throughout the menu, giving everything a certain saminess and leading to slight palate fatigue.  One of these, oddly, is anchovies.  Another, less oddly, is sour/vinegar.  A few dishes in a row with that accent, and you just want something different.

 

Having said that, almost all the dishes, taken by themselves, were winners.  Among them:  a chicory salad with a dressing tasting very heavily of anchovies and garlic.  Here, on these greens, the anchovies were welcome!  Anchovy crostini, the anchovies, heavily spiced with chili, served on (I think) amazingly creamy butter.  Busiate -- an interesting and hearty curly dark wheat pasta -- with broccoli, anchovies, and ricotta salata (getting the idea?).  Grilled swordfish with artichoke, raisin, and olive (here's where they sour fatigue set in).

 

The only miss were ravioli filled with flavorless ricotta and cabbage, with flavorless soggy black truffles on top.

 

I can't imagine this restaurant -- beautifully situated on Soho Square -- can fail, and I give it a strong recommendation and look forward to going again (maybe when they institute the daily specials).

 

But here's the thing.  This place is better than Batali/Bastianich's new La Sirena in every way:  it's smaller, it's less slick, the food is more creative and "interesting", it has more integrity.  In every way BUT ONE:  La Sirena's food tastes better.  Is that still important, I wonder?

 

NOTE TO LIQUID:  They only give you bread if you ask for it (but at no charge).

 

COMP DISCLOSURE:  They gave us one of the pastas for free after they threw the remains out even though my dining companion asked to take them home.


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#2 GerryOlds

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 03:22 AM

We were in the area earlier tonight. I found it hit-or-miss.

 

My date ordered the fritto misto with cuttlefish and broccoli and the batter slid right off of everything, especially the cuttlefish. Funnily, she noticed the Contra/Wildair chefs sitting a few tables over and we both agreed that Wildair's squid is far superior. Mattos gets a pat on the back for seemingly candying his lemons before frying them, though.

 

I think David Chang should pay this place a visit, if only to learn how to make a damn salad (I loved the chicory salad).

 

We split a pasta. The noodles were cooked perfectly (lasagnette) but the sauce was like a more nuanced Dinty Moore.

 

I had the swordfish -- does anyone know if there's a name for cutting proteins in half longitudinally? I can't remember if Mattos does it at Estela, but both the liver and the swordfish are served that way. Don't think I've seen it done to fish before, but I thought it made an already meaty fish eat even meatier. Also, I think there was an anise seed crust? Whatever it was, it was charred on mine and tasted vaguely five-spice-ish.

 

Sneak, did you have any dessert? I think it's insane that two scoops of ice cream costs more than a seasonal crostata. Although the ice creams and sorbets are made with booze. The Campari/orange sorbet was excellent, not cloying at all.



#3 Sneakeater

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 04:25 AM

I drank my dessert.  Some Sicilian passito by Arianna O.

 

I forgot to mention the frito misto.  I have to say that ours did NOT have your problem AT ALL.

 

Yeah, maybe an anise seed crust on the swordfish.


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#4 Suzanne F

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 05:03 AM

Wasn't Thomas Carter the guy behind Rouge et Blanc?


I don't actually know what a handbasket is -- but whatever they are, singer-songwriters are in the first ones going to hell. -- Sneakeater, 29 March 2018 - 12:06 AM

 

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#5 Sneakeater

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 05:35 AM

No, that was Thomas Cregan.  (And, boy, did I have to think hard to remember THAT.)

 

This guy was at BHSB, among other places.


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#6 joethefoodie

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 12:34 PM

 

Having said that, almost all the dishes, taken by themselves, were winners.  Among them:  a chicory salad with a dressing tasting very heavily of anchovies and garlic.  Here, on these greens, the anchovies were welcome!  Anchovy crostini, the anchovies, heavily spiced with chili, served on (I think) amazingly creamy butter.  Busiate -- an interesting and hearty curly dark wheat pasta -- with broccoli, anchovies, and ricotta salata (getting the idea?).  Grilled swordfish with artichoke, raisin, and olive (here's where they sour fatigue set in).

 

The salad sounds, of course, like a riff on the classic puntarella salad, using chicory in lieu of the much harder to procure and prepare Roman veg.

 

And I predict busiate will be the "new" hot pasta shape of 2016.  I first tried it at a dinner at Gustiamo early last year, LNY mentioned having it at a restaurant, and I have 4 bags of it in my pantry.  Classically served with an interesting pesto containing Sicilian pistachios and tomatoes.



#7 wingding

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 01:01 PM

 

 

Having said that, almost all the dishes, taken by themselves, were winners.  Among them:  a chicory salad with a dressing tasting very heavily of anchovies and garlic.  Here, on these greens, the anchovies were welcome!  Anchovy crostini, the anchovies, heavily spiced with chili, served on (I think) amazingly creamy butter.  Busiate -- an interesting and hearty curly dark wheat pasta -- with broccoli, anchovies, and ricotta salata (getting the idea?).  Grilled swordfish with artichoke, raisin, and olive (here's where they sour fatigue set in).

 

The salad sounds, of course, like a riff on the classic puntarella salad, using chicory in lieu of the much harder to procure and prepare Roman veg.

 

And I predict busiate will be the "new" hot pasta shape of 2016.  I first tried it at a dinner at Gustiamo early last year, LNY mentioned having it at a restaurant, and I have 4 bags of it in my pantry.  Classically served with an interesting pesto containing Sicilian pistachios and tomatoes.

 

Are you using the busiate made with Tuminia ? It is delicious,has a great chew...I make it with pancetta and turnip greens.


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#8 joethefoodie

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 01:41 PM

 

 

 

Having said that, almost all the dishes, taken by themselves, were winners.  Among them:  a chicory salad with a dressing tasting very heavily of anchovies and garlic.  Here, on these greens, the anchovies were welcome!  Anchovy crostini, the anchovies, heavily spiced with chili, served on (I think) amazingly creamy butter.  Busiate -- an interesting and hearty curly dark wheat pasta -- with broccoli, anchovies, and ricotta salata (getting the idea?).  Grilled swordfish with artichoke, raisin, and olive (here's where they sour fatigue set in).

 

The salad sounds, of course, like a riff on the classic puntarella salad, using chicory in lieu of the much harder to procure and prepare Roman veg.

 

And I predict busiate will be the "new" hot pasta shape of 2016.  I first tried it at a dinner at Gustiamo early last year, LNY mentioned having it at a restaurant, and I have 4 bags of it in my pantry.  Classically served with an interesting pesto containing Sicilian pistachios and tomatoes.

 

Are you using the busiate made with Tuminia ? It is delicious,has a great chew...I make it with pancetta and turnip greens.

 

 

Yes - that's the one!



#9 Suzanne F

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 05:33 PM

 

 

 

 

Having said that, almost all the dishes, taken by themselves, were winners.  Among them:  a chicory salad with a dressing tasting very heavily of anchovies and garlic.  Here, on these greens, the anchovies were welcome!  Anchovy crostini, the anchovies, heavily spiced with chili, served on (I think) amazingly creamy butter.  Busiate -- an interesting and hearty curly dark wheat pasta -- with broccoli, anchovies, and ricotta salata (getting the idea?).  Grilled swordfish with artichoke, raisin, and olive (here's where they sour fatigue set in).

 

The salad sounds, of course, like a riff on the classic puntarella salad, using chicory in lieu of the much harder to procure and prepare Roman veg.

 

And I predict busiate will be the "new" hot pasta shape of 2016.  I first tried it at a dinner at Gustiamo early last year, LNY mentioned having it at a restaurant, and I have 4 bags of it in my pantry.  Classically served with an interesting pesto containing Sicilian pistachios and tomatoes.

 

Are you using the busiate made with Tuminia ? It is delicious,has a great chew...I make it with pancetta and turnip greens.

 

 

Yes - that's the one!

 

Did you get it at Buon Italia? I have to go soon to replace my depleted pasta stores.


I don't actually know what a handbasket is -- but whatever they are, singer-songwriters are in the first ones going to hell. -- Sneakeater, 29 March 2018 - 12:06 AM

 

notorious stickler -- NY Times
deeply annoying and nitpicking -- Molly O'Neill, One Big Table


#10 joethefoodie

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 07:06 PM

No - I got it from Gustiamo.



#11 GerryOlds

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 07:17 PM

Sneak, what was the bread here like?



#12 Sneakeater

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 07:26 PM

Typical boring Italian bread. (Served with olive oil.)
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#13 Suzanne F

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 09:35 PM

No - I got it from Gustiamo.

Okay, thanks.


I don't actually know what a handbasket is -- but whatever they are, singer-songwriters are in the first ones going to hell. -- Sneakeater, 29 March 2018 - 12:06 AM

 

notorious stickler -- NY Times
deeply annoying and nitpicking -- Molly O'Neill, One Big Table


#14 Sneakeater

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Posted 24 February 2016 - 10:53 PM

It was nice of them to put a picture of me at the head of their website.
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#15 Sneakeater

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 09:34 PM

I just want to say that the potato ravioli I had here at lunch yesterday was better than anything I've ever had at Lilia.

 

Just sayin'.


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